Celebrate the art and history of trains in St. Paul on May 6

By Charles Brandt

The railroad industry played a significant role in the development of the Twin Cities, helping both cities form economic and social connections with the rest of the country. In fact, the state of Minnesota still has over 4,400 miles of operating freight rails to this day, providing railway connections to both coasts, and shipping networks throughout the larger world.


Great Northern Railway History

During the the mid- to late-1800’s the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad would become the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, serving as the state’s first passenger line. After financial bankruptcy, James J. Hill, along with other investors, purchased the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and used it as the cornerstone of the famous Great Northern Railway. This railway ran all the way from St. Paul to Seattle. Much of the tracks laid by Great Northern would eventually turn into the current Amtrak lines available today for train passengers headed out of Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest and Chicago. The railways of Minnesota served as a means of settlement, trading, private industry empire building, and have truly shaped our great state.


Train Day at Union Depot

Under the direction of James J. Hill himself, the Union Depot in Downtown St. Paul was constructed after the original location had burned down. So it seems quite appropriate that Train Day will be celebrated on May 6 at the depot. The event will “highlight the history and future of passenger train travel, the historic and current role of freight railroads in our region, and changing transportation trends and needs.” There will also be a wide-variety of free transportation-inspired activities, viewable train equipment, educational sessions, special events and activities for all ages.

Train Day Exhibitors

Model Railroad Exhibits

Railroad Equipment

Buses & Cars

Free Educational Sessions

During the event, a series of free educational sessions will be hosted on the 2nd floor Concourse at Union Depot. These sessions are open to all. For more information and to register, visit their Eventbrite page.

  • 10 a.m. – David Thompson: “The Railway Post Office and Railway Mail Service”
  • 11:30 a.m. – Short movie: “Mail in Motion” (No registration needed)
  • 12 p.m. – Peter A. Briggs: “A career in railroad public relations and communication”
  • 1:30 p.m. – Kevin P. Keefe: “Wallace W. Abbey, His Life and Photography,” presented in conjunction with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art
  • 12 p.m. – The Raptor Center (No registration needed – Red Cap Room):
    1-hour presentation that includes 3 live raptors. Presentation will cover the relationship between raptors and the Mississippi River, a popular scenic route of the Amtrak Empire Builder. After the presentation, guests will be able to visit and take picture with the raptors until 4 p.m.

Free Tours
Free guided tours will be offered of the Metro Transit Operations & Maintenance Facility (OMF) near Union Depot. Here you’ll see some of the inner workings of the train system, as well as where the trains are stored at night. For more information and to register, visit their Eventbrite page.

Friday Night Photoshoot: $22.50
Friday, May 5th at 8 p.m.
A rare opportunity to shoot behind the scenes on the platform of Union Depot, featuring Amtrak P42DC #42 “Salutes our Veterans” unit, Twin Cities & Western Railroad GP38-3, Union Pacific (heritage unit requested), Great Northern Railway Historical Society’s GN SD45 No. 45, re-lettered Burlington Northern 6430 and Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Lighting provided, but we suggest bringing a tripod and remote shutter release for your cameras. The Amtrak Empire Builder is scheduled to arrive at 10:00 p.m. Instagrammers are encouraged to attend!

Dates, Hours and Transportation:
Saturday, May 6: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Union Depot.

Metro Transit is offering free transportation to the event: download your pass today.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This